A ground-saving ride from Hugh Bowman has helped Criterion to a dominant win in the Group One Rosehill Guineas.
Runner-up in the Spring Champion Stakes and the Australian Guineas, Criterion wasn’t going to be denied a third time on Saturday, announcing himself as the new ATC Australian Derby favourite with his 3-1/2 length win on rain-affected ground.
“He’s just becoming mature now and (Bowman) rode him properly today,” Payne said.
“He’s a horse you can’t bustle. That’s why you use the top boys (riders), when you can get them.”
Bowman, who hadn’t ridden Criterion since last year’s Champagne Stakes, settled the colt back in the field as Cox Plate winner Shamus Award and New Zealand Derby winner Puccini set a speed they found impossible to sustain.
As the field fanned on the home turn, Bowman stayed closest to the inside and Criterion ($14) powered to the front and continued to race clear in a convincing Derby trial.
Thunder Fantasy ($12) led in the chasers with Queenslander Teronado ($8) another 1-1/2 lengths away third.
Criterion was fourth in the Victoria Derby and Payne is confident he can make amends in Sydney version.
“The Derby has always been his mission. That’s what we’ve aimed at,” he said.
Payne asked Bowman if he’d stick with Criterion in the Derby upon dismounting and was happy with the response.
“They will all be wanting to phone (for the Derby ride), but they won’t have to now,” Payne said.
After initially fearing Criterion wasn’t going to let down in the going, Bowman’s confidence soared as the colt towed him into the race at the right time.
“What I liked was when he got to the front and I asked him to go, he put them away,” Bowman said.
Randwick Guineas winner and equal favourite Dissident ($4.20) didn’t appreciate the rain-affected going and finished sixth, while Shamus Award raced too fiercely and beat one runner home.
Stewards questioned Shamus Award’s jockey Craig Williams and 12th-placed Puccini’s rider Michael Walker about their tactics.
Williams said Shamus Award raced too keenly while Walker said his saddle was shifting and had no choice but to go to the front.